Reno Deserves Coverage–and Condemnation

It was appropriate to run a lead article on Janet Reno ’63 in the Spring 2001 issue of the Law Bulletin. Any alumnus or alumna who achieves Cabinet rank deserves such recognition, even if the person in question is a political hack who disgraced such high office.

Article Glossed Over Waco Decision

It appears that Janet Reno told you all you wanted to hear. It is unfortunate that your level of inquiry into what really happened under her tenure as attorney general didn’t go any further.

Perhaps one of the reasons she will never know if she did the right thing at Waco is because she never honestly tried to find out. No doubt this helps her sleep at night. In an effort to make your file on Ms. Reno a little more complete, I am enclosing the list of names of those who died at Waco. You stated that “Janet Reno wants us to be at peace, just like she is.” It is too bad those on the list never had a chance to find out just what peace really is.

Bulletin Is a Favorite Distraction

I have finally gotten around to reading the Fall 2000 Harvard Law Bulletin. How do you expect me to get anything accomplished when you publish a magazine which is just crammed with concise, well-written articles about one fascinating individual after another?

Reaction to Student Death Exemplified Era

I wonder how the death of Bill Burgess would be viewed today [Spring 2001, p. 33]. I note that great contortions were exerted by everyone involved not to suggest suicide, which it apparently was.

Today we know that suicide is a medical matter and resulting death is no more shameful than a heart attack or cancer. Physicians in the field know this, and hopefully the rest of us now know it too.

Civil Disobedience Should Not Be Condemned

Murray Rudin ’86 writes in the Spring 2001 Bulletin, complaining about an article in the Fall 2000 issue of the Bulletin profiling Katya Komisaruk ’93 [p. 58]. Komisaruk had engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience before attending HLS; now that she is an attorney, Komisaruk sometimes represents those involved in civil disobedience. Two things must be said about Rudin’s remarks.

First, Rudin complains about Komisaruk’s work representing those who are arrested for committing nonviolent civil disobedience. This complaint is fatuous. As an HLS graduate, Rudin should know that all criminal defendants are entitled to representation. Our legal system does not ask Rudin (or anyone else) to personally like criminal defendants, or to endorse their conduct, in order for those defendants to get legal representation.

Second, Rudin complains that Komisaruk entered HLS as a convicted felon, after being released from prison for committing nonviolent civil disobedience. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I was also a convicted felon when I entered HLS, and had a criminal record of multiple arrests for nonviolent civil disobedience.) Nonviolent civil disobedience has a long and noble history in this country, including the Boston Tea Party, Henry David Thoreau’s tax protest during the Mexican-American War, and the work of Martin Luther King Jr. (and thousands of others) during the civil rights movement. We have a national holiday for Dr. King, who is known primarily for organizing nonviolent civil disobedience.

My point here, of course, is not that Rudin should or must engage in civil disobedience himself. My point is that, as far as I know, HLS has no ideological or political tests or standards for admission. Right-wing Republicans are admitted, as are Nader supporters. This is as it should be. Rudin decries the admission of Komisaruk, saying it betrays a double standard–after all, he says, robbery, rape, or assault would be “deemed less socially acceptable to HLS.” Does Rudin really think that nonviolent civil disobedience of a Martin Luther King or Katya Komisaruk–committed for deeply held religious or philosophical beliefs, for which the actor undertakes serious personal risk and consequences–is just like “robbery, rape, or assault”?